For CarpeDM cofounders Sali Hama and Naza Shelley, the knowledge that Black women have a harder time on dating apps is not new information. But it was finding specific research that showed how strong relationships can ultimately provide economic, physical and mental support that led Hama and Shelley to take action, steering away from their law careers in favor of the matchmaking startup world.
“That was a light bulb to really think about, OK, if this is what is required for women to make these changes and be really impactful in their communities, especially in the Black community, then you have to look at solving the problem by including a way to really help Black women create and maintain healthy, stable relationships,” Hama told Technical.ly.
CMO Hama and CEO Shelley are the driving force behind Woodbridge, Virginia-based CarpeDM, a forthcoming dating app and matchmaking service for Black women. Alongside District IRL, you might remember CarpeDM as part of the team behind LoveCast, an interactive virtual dating show created last March. (The show also won Invention of the Year at the 2020 Technical.ly Awards.) But right now, the startup is focusing on its roots and gearing up for the official launch of the CarpeDM app, which Hama said will be available to DMV singles in late September or early October. In the meantime, it’s also conducting a dating survey on Black women’s dating experience to make sure CarpeDM is addressing all the pain points, Hama said.
“It was really important to sit down and think about who is not being served in the dating market and and what type of product is missing from dating in general,” Hama said. “So we not only created community for an underserved market, but we also elevated online dating itself.”
CarpeDM, which will be available for iOS in the fall and Android next year, offers an app and subsequent community for Black women and anyone interested in dating them, Hama said. After downloading the app, users fill out a 50-question survey about themselves and what they’re looking for in a relationship. Participants also need to upload a photo and video of themselves, and submit their profile for review by a matchmaker, who will complete a 30-minute interview. After submitting to a background check, users can begin using the app and interact with matches selected by the matchmaker. The initial launch is for DMV singles, although it can be accessed from anywhere, and users can specify if they’d be willing to move for love.
CarpeDM also posts blog posts and a video series called “Black Women Deserve” featuring dating experts, and eventually it will hold member events for a more community-centered experience.
“We’re really just taking a holistic approach to dating. With the Tinders and the Bumbles, it’s sort of like, ‘Here’s the platform, find yourself a partner and good luck,'” Hama said. “For us, it’s holistic. We’re strategically a community because we want to be able to interact with our members.”
The official launch of CarpeDM’s app also comes at a unique time in dating. Emerging from lockdowns, Hama said people’s interests are leaning away from casual swipe culture and toward meaningful, authentic dating. CarpeDM’s vetting process for users helps with this, she said, requiring people to slow down a little and focus more on the person they’re talking to.
“We already know that singles are tired of the swiping, they’re tired of the Tinder culture, but they can’t seem to get away from it because that is the culture,” Hama said. “And if you leave the space where everyone is in, where do you go find a partner?” CarpeDM, the cofounder hopes.
With the launch this fall, Hama said CarpeDM is adding a few marketing interns as well as matchmakers to its team. The company is also in the midst of a $250,000 funding round, closing soon, for the launch. It has also partnered with six organizations including member coworking space The Gathering Spot, lingerie boutique Cherry Blossom Intimates and The Most, a haircare company from DC founder Dawn Myers. Hama said CarpeDM intends to do joint campaigns with its partners in the coming months.
“It’s really important for us to join forces with partners who are also on a mission to improve the lives of Black women,” Hama said.